My on-line diary began in the 1990's from my studio in the North of England. After a lapse of ten years, I resumed posting from my present studio on the Caribbean island of Dominica.

From the far beginning, the intention has been to give an insight into my working methods, and to share the triumphs, trials and tribulations of work-in-progress.

My diary pages are followed by thousands of artists, art students and art lovers in over 50 countries.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On a cloud

Works on paper are often rejected by buyers because of their supposed impermanence. 

Having trusted my life’s work to every type of paper - from cheap news-print to the finest all-rag - I have come to the conclusion that it is one of the most permanent materials known to man.  My water colours have survived storms at sea and hurricanes on land.   After forty years they are still intact, which is more than can be said of my files on celluloid and the contents of my hard-drives.  For safe keeping, my daughter claims to have put the contents of my present hard-drive “on a cloud”.  Sixty years ago, the comedian Bob Newhart would have had a heyday with that one!

Nevertheless, when a painting finds a buyer, the only means by which I can keep a record is by way of the camera.  In my early days it was a 1930’s large format bellows, then a Kodak 35mm and now, a miniature digital Cannon. 

Yesterday, I came across a CD upon which, years ago, I had copied some rapidly deteriorating colour slides.  And lo and behold, upon it were some paintings that I had almost forgotten about. 

Sometimes, after a gap of twenty-odd years, I hardly recognize my own work.  For second it takes me by surprise and I am tempted to say, I wish I’d painted that!   Now it all comes back to me and I remember that I had only a few minutes between tropical downpours to capture this street scene on Grenada.  I trust the original is still intact upon someone’s wall.

Friday, July 24, 2015

With the benefit of hindsight

I have learnt not to labour over a painting once the original intention has been lost.  Better to put it aside and start afresh.  I have also learnt to resist destroying work that, at the time, I perceive to be a failure.   With the benefit of hindsight, a rejected painting is sometimes found to have merit. 

More often than not, the initial dissatisfaction is due to the impossibility of capturing the full force of nature.  That which I put down on paper appears to be but a shadow of the real thing.  It is only when viewed after time and distance have detached it from reality, that some vestige of reality is seen to remain.

From past portfolios I have found two unfinished paintings that illustrate my point.  The first was painted in Bermuda twenty-three years ago.  At the time my dissatisfaction was such that I used it as packing when sending other – and what I now consider to be inferior – paintings to an exhibition.  If you look closely, you will see that I have scribbled across it the words, packing: please destroy.  Luckily, no one did!

The second painting was made on a brief visit to the South of France.  I remember feeling at the time that I was not capturing the colour and vibrancy of the scene before me.  Now, with the benefit of fifteen years of hindsight, I regret that I cast it aside unfinished.  But perhaps it says more in its unfinished state than if I had finished it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Moon and Sixpence

My self-exposed exile from the land of my birth began with a voyage through the French canals in 1969 and cumulated in 1974 when, with my wife and small daughter, we sailed a 30ft ketch from England to the Caribbean. 

Somerset Maugham, in his novel The Moon and Sixpence, expresses the reason for this estrangement as follows:

…Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as if they were familiar to him from his birth…

But even before setting foot in the Caribbean, I was lured to the region by the image of a seated nude by the sculptor Enzo Plazzotta titled The Jamaican Girl.  Thus, my love for the Caribbean and my attraction to the beauty of the nude really began at an exhibition of the sculptor’s work at the 1971 Kings Lynn Arts Festival.

Following on from my last entry, today’s painting is again of my wife Norma.  It dates from 1975 and represents my very first attempt at painting the nude.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A soul without a stain…

In a few days ago, as I delved through past portfolios of my work, I found a portrait that I painted forty years ago.  It is of my faithful and courageous first wife Norma (1946 – 1980).  Although my painting shows her in pensive mood, she is remembered best for her laughter.

Andrew Lang’s poem Lost Love offers consolation for a life and love that is lost all too soon.

Who wins his love shall lose her,
Who loses her shall gain,
For still the spirit woos her,
A soul without a stain;
And memory pursues her
With longings not in vain.

He loses her who gains her,
Who watches day by day
The dust of time that stains her,
The griefs that leave her gray –
The flesh that yet enchains her
Whose grace hath passed away.

Oh, happier he who gains not
The love some seems to gain:
The joy that custom stains not
Shall still with him remain;
The loveliness that wanes not,
The love that ne’re can wane.

In dreams she grows not older
The land of dreams among;
Though all the world wax colder,
Though all the songs be sung,
In dreams doth he behold her
            Still fair and kind and young.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A poem and the view from my bathroom window

The deadline for this year’s Literary Festival poetry competition is fast approaching.  The theme is the environment: a repetitive subject here on the Nature Island of the Caribbean

My dear departed friend, Virgin Island poet Sheila Hyndman, at the tender age of 16, wrote the definitive lament to the Caribbean environment in her poem To Virgin Gorda.  

                They will come
                With tools and machines
                They will bring to light your secret places
                They will demand your mysteries
                They will destroy,
                Build up.
                They will dilute you of your treasures
                And rob you of your chastity.
                They will adorn you like ancient Jezebel.

For poetic inspiration I take myself down to my bathing pool at the river.  Today’s picture is the view that greets me each afternoon as I lay relaxing in the crystal clear waters.  My Dominican poetic muse Jessica Bellevue has christened it, The Fountain of Youth.   

The sketch is one that I made of her at the bathing pool last year, not composing verse but doing her week’s washing.

Monday, July 6, 2015

About these gates!

For four days I have been working around the clock, not as a painter or sculptor, but as an engineer.  Two badly damaged helical gears have brought the Dominica Brewery to a stand-still.  To make replacements comes as close to rocket science as your ever likely to get on a small Caribbean island.  The machine that I use to cut replacement gears is as old as I am and the micrometer show in the picture belonged to my grandfather. 

When my day comes to enter the next world, I suspect that the Master of all innovations will take me aside and say: Rog, About these gates…before going further, take a look at them and see if you can fix the hinges!